Nigeria (MNN) — Today is International Widows Day, and in Nigeria, terrorists have been targeting boys above the age of 13 as well as husbands and fathers.
Since it started its insurgency in 2009, Boko Haram has killed more than 13,000 people, and most have been men.
“Boko Haram specifically targets men because they know that’s going to be the way to try to take down the Christian community–taking down those who are providing for families,” says Emily Fuentes of Open Doors USA.
“Once they take out men in communities, it places a significant toll on the rest of the families.”
Open Doors contacts say attacks on husbands and even on churches are becoming more frequent. An average of five attacks take place each week.
“It’s more than the government can sometimes handle tension-wise, more than they’re prepared to handle, even though it’s been going on several years,” Fuentes explains.
Widows in Nigeria
With the rise of the attacks, wives are being left as widows, and the wage earner of the family is gone. Families are ultimately left struggling for survival. In other words, Boko Haram attacks are strategically planned to tear communities apart and leave women and children to struggle on their own.
Life as a widow in Nigeria is extremely difficult. They’re forced to scramble for any money or support they can get to provide for families. And that support doesn’t always come easily.
Nigerian widows often have no right to claim what their late-husband left behind. In most cases, his family takes everything–that could be a car, house, or any sum of money.
In other cases, such as the one reported by IRIN News, women don’t receive the financial benefits or pensions that they deserve.
“Many of these women find themselves near starving or unable to make ends meet,” Fuentes says.
“Often times their children need to drop out of school to help provide for the family income, or they just can’t afford school. They might have to work instead.”
For Christian widows, the persecution coming from Boko Haram or villagers is even worse. “Because of widow’s and children’s place in society, they’re already discriminated against; and then to have the extra persecution they face as Christians: it’s all double the persecution.”
Widows feel like they’ve been forgotten and abandoned.
How Open Doors is helping
But Open Doors believes this is a chance to give them mercy. The ministry is sharing the love of Jesus with women by providing business training and funds to restart businesses.
“It’s so important for us to stay united in the Body of Christ,” says Fuentes. “When one member suffers, we all suffer. It’s important for us to not forget about them, but to actively be standing with them in their suffering and letting them know we are there for them.”
Everyday people are helping Open Doors by writing letters of encouragement, signing up for prayer alerts, giving to widows, and signing a petition that urges the President to monitor religious persecution in the Middle East.
Come alongside Open Doors to help show widows that they’re loved and not forgotten.